Category Archives: Uncategorized

#AskAnArchivist Day: A Tweet Success

Peter Gottlieb, Chair, SAA Committee on Public Awareness    Peter_Gottlieb_2008bw (1)

This year, SAA President Kathleen Roe dared SAA members to take on a “Year of Living Dangerously for Archives”—to do something to take action to raise awareness of archives. On October 30, at the tail end of American Archives Month, the Committee on Public Awareness challenged members to do just that: We asked archivists to take to Twitter to respond to questions from the public that included the hashtag #AskAnArchivist. Continue reading

Bits, Bytes, and Buzz: Electronic Records Day, 10-10-14

Let the cheering begin for the Council of State Archivists and its Electronic Records Day campaign on October 10, 2014 (10-10-14), and congratulations to all those who did their part in supporting this wonderful event. CoSA initiated this effort as part of American Archives Month four years ago, on the appropriately dated 10-10-10.  SAA and other professional organizations have joined CoSA in the effort, and this year Electronic Records Day has really shown what archivists can do to raise awareness. Continue reading

Archives, Archivists and Data gathering

Dennis MeissnerIn a recent OTR post Kathleen Roe emphasized the need to start gathering baseline data about ourselves, our repositories, and our collections.  Not for their own sake, but to buttress our advocacy arguments. I am especially interested in collecting such information, and I would like to devote some serious energy towards compiling and evaluating the data we need to define, value, and promote our work.

It’s been over more than ten years since the A*CENSUS snapshot and we are in serious need of a refresh of those data.  But at the same time I’m starting to wonder whether a repeat of that effort is the right way to proceed.  If we simply gather a compendium of data about ourselves, who’s going to care?  I’m concerned that a data set like that simply extends a self-referential conversation that has always gone on among ourselves and our closest allies.

But what if we were to turn the lens in another direction?  What if, instead, we were to start asking questions about our users and their needs; how they use archives and for what purposes; and what changes in our public service model would help them achieve success?  If we could make a data-informed case for public investment in archives based on expanding user success, then perhaps we will see people – funders, legislators, researchers, and employers — start to care.  Funders, legislators, researchers, and employers.

I’m thinking we need to marry the the information that’s purely about us, with a very large helping of information that which is about use and users. It is those data that will ultimately define our public value and, therefore, substantiate our advocacy arguments.

So how do we start to gather this other data set?  Who do we ask?  What do we ask? How do we ask it?  What existing data can we chew on?   I believe we need to head in this direction, but I’m unsure how we turn the ship.  I would greatly appreciate hearing your ideas.

Dennis Meissner, Vice-President/President Elect

Archives: the gift that keeps on giving

Sometimes it takes a long time for information in archives to become accessible for a range of reasons. It may simply not have been examined, in other cases, age and condition have prevented our ability to literally see or hear the information. A sparkling New York colleague, Jean Green from Binghamton University, recently posted a link on her Facebook page to the following article about work at Yale University to reveal text on a map that is believed to have been used by Columbus in exploration leading to what are now called the Americas: http://www.wired.com/2014/09/martellus-map/

And that reminded me of another set of revelations thanks to technology lending insight on a question that those of you in my generation struggled with, what triggered the Ohio National Guard to shoot at Kent State students (a subject still raw for many of us). In 2010 technology brought forward more information:

http://www.cleveland.com/science/index.ssf/2010/10/analysis_of_kent_state_audio_t.html

More information on both of these stories, and countless others, will emerge as technology and work by archivists and researchers continues. If you know of examples of information finally emerging as archival records are treated or used, feel free to share it here. A good reminder after a long week (for me at least) of why we do what we do!

Take Action for Archives!

For all of you who’ve made the commitment to participate in the “The Year of Living Dangerously for Archives” and for those who are still wondering just what this is all about (see the 9/3/2104 blogpost here), the first challenge opportunity is now live on the SAA website:  http://www2.archivists.org/living-dangerously/value-of-archives

You’ll find suggestions for concrete actions to take in the next days/weeks to further our efforts to raise awareness of the importance and value of archives and archivists. Check out the suggestions, put your own spin on them, try them out and then tell us the results of your efforts.

Challenges will be issued periodically in the future focusing on different issues, times, approaches, or for particular groups within SAA whether Student Chapters, Fellows, or any of our roundtables and sections. Do one, do many—every action is another step forward in raising awareness.

It is an absolute joy and privilege to be part of a profession that can change lives, alter the path of policy, affect the economy, capture the minds of students, promote insight and understanding, and provide the information infrastructure for democracy. It’s time we let others know that this is what archives and archivists do. Join us in taking action for archives!

A recent opportunity to raise awareness of archives

Earlier this week, the New York Times published an op-ed piece, “The New History Wars,” by American Historical Association Executive Director Jim Grossman. (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/opinion/the-new-history-wars.html?_r=0)   Because Jim’s piece teed up an opportunity to note the essential role of archival records in education, Dennis Meissner, Nancy Beaumont, and I pulled together and submitted the “letter to the editor” below.

If the world stays calm, no movie stars get married, and no natural disasters occur, there is a very modest chance this might get printed. But despite the odds, it seemed worth a try. Because I have, and will continue, to challenge our members to get involved in raising awareness of archives, it seemed appropriate to let you know that I’m trying to do the same—to find positive and productive opportunities to draw attention to the many ways in which archival records and archivists contribute to the educational, social, and political conduct of our society. I’ll continue to look for chances to raise a voice on the value and importance of archives, and hope you’ll join me in speaking up about archives whenever we can!

Here’s the letter as submitted (with painful deletions to get it down to the required 175 words): Continue reading

In the beginning….there is gratitude.

What’s the first thing I should say after assuming the presidency? I can think of no words more important or more heartfelt than “Thank you.” As my predecessor, the amazing Danna Bell said in her first blogpost, “We are SAA”. The fabric and nature of SAA is woven from strong, colorful, and unique threads that are our members, our leaders, our staff, and our supporters. Acknowledging all the ways in which people contribute to SAA could become a dissertation-sized post and even then likely only skim the surface.

It would be an interesting exercise to estimate the amount of contributed time that members give and even more so to consider the “cost-sharing” it represents. Begin with service on roundtables, sections, committees, boards, council and officers. Then add on the time and energy members give to preparing sessions for the annual meeting, writing articles for Archival Outlook or The American Archivist. Now add the mentoring, navigating, and informal advising that goes on between us at the Annual Meeting and throughout the year. Our membership is the mother lode of professional generosity.

The dedication of the SAA staff is priceless in their responsiveness to members, their skill in navigating the management of our association, and in the gift of their positive attitude toward service. The more I have been involved in leadership, the more they dazzle me with their ability to simultaneously juggle balls, dishes, axes, fruit, and the occasional flaming torch.

As the year goes forward, there will doubtless be times of challenge, accomplishment, bafflement, contention, energy, and maybe a few hearty chuckles. We will be what we make of ourselves and I am grateful for your contributions to the amazing patchwork quilt that is the Society of American Archivists.

Many, many thanks to all of you for all you do.

Kathleen